Management Accounting Research in a Changing World

7 July 2016

Anthony G. Hopwood, former dean of the Said Business School at the University of Oxford, was elected to be the recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Management Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association. He was recognized for his contributions to the Section and the research he performed throughout the years. Hopwood discusses the issues he believes are critical to understanding the current state of management accounting research and practice.

He talks about the increasing presence of “mainstream” tendencies and how this approach is hindering a typically diverse and open-minded field. He provides his opinion about the need to integrate design and social science perspectives into the field, and lastly, explains ways in which the accounting academic sphere is becoming autonomous. First, Hopwood discusses his fears regarding the changes in management accounting practices and why they are not beneficial to advancing studies in the field.

Management Accounting Research in a Changing World Essay Example

He believes the “mainstream” tendencies have caused accounting programs to become less diverse involving fewer perspectives and approaches to issues. He believes that accounting requires a wide range of understanding—not only of the subject, but it’s context as well. Since mainstream approaches fail to consider sociological and political insights, key factors underlying accounting processes cannot be analyzed. Hopwood argues “a diversity of research approaches is needed if the aim is to provide a more complete understanding of the issues related”

To move away from mainstream accounting toward a more diverse approach it is necessary that the Management Accounting Section strives to resist conformity, encourage innovation, and emphasize intellectual and methodical problems. Management accounting requires both design and social science approaches to successfully investigate and implement organizational change and improvement. Implications of a new accounting process, such as a new costing system, indicate a need for the integration of understanding the system design and understanding the social science disciplines that provide a view into the functionality of the organization.

Hopwood encourages the two approaches in the article and believes the integration of them will lead to opportunities for accounting researchers to be involved in system design. The last issue Hopwood addresses in his article relates to the increasing autonomy of the research sphere. In recent years accounting research has become distant from practice; both institutional and personal pressures have contributed.

Hopwood believes that an interlinkage between the worlds of practice and research is necessary to facilitate communication and the flow of ideas between the two. If business schools take time to invest in a diversity of means of engagement with practice they will benefit more than by using any single approach. Changes are, and will continue to occur in the Management Accounting Section. Although the challenges of change are difficult for most accountants to embrace, it is an exciting time for the Section to divulge in new and innovative research.

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